Zweiter Gesang

Dante Alighieri’s epic poem Commedia, begun in ca. 1307, serves as the framework for Frank Balve’s installation “23-29.06. (Second Song) 2012”. In Zweiter Gesang, the poet begins his journey into the underworld; yet he hesitates before he passes through the Gates of Hell and confronts the suffering souls in Purgatory. The Divine Comedy resonates only indirectly to the installation by, serving, rather, as the catalyst for the exploration of the material. A frame construction seals off the area above and lends the work an archi-tectural character. It resembles the soffit of a portal and refers to another art historical point of reference: Auguste Rodin‘s “Gates of Hell” from 1877 to 1917, a monumental bronze sculpture, which shares an affiliation with Dante‘s description of hell, purgatory and paradise. While Rodin represents human suffering figuratively, Balve translates the theme into an abstraction. The canvas is cov-ered with a dense, structure of color splatters, streaks and drips, and we can only vaguely imagine the original dark back-ground. Al-though dominated by a dull and gloomy impression, in its complex-ity the lush paint appears intoxicating, almost orgiastic. The chore-ography of colors is not based on a conventional iconography, but on a symbolism that the observer must ultimately approach intui-tively, despite the fact that it suggests associations – with its tran-sition from skin tones and light to cool dark hues – with the theme of the Gates of Hell passage. The numerous layers of paint overlap like sedimentary layers. In the horizontal and vertical gradients, the temporality of the creative process becomes comprehensible, and, especially in the flesh-colored areas, the color breaks up and reveals the underlying layers. Even the title places the installation in time by listing both the space of production time, as well as the birth and death days of Frank Balve‘s teacher, Norbert Prangen-berg, to whom the work is dedicated. SO